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Matthew Denhart

Former Cutler Scholar Matthew Denhart speaks to the students at the Scholar Summit in November 2018

Photo courtesy of: Cutler Scholars

Scholar Summit

Group shot of the 2018 Scholar Summit

Photo courtesy of: Cutler Scholars

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Cutler Scholars Program hosts the 2018 Scholar Summit


Forty high-promise scholars from other universities across the country met at Ohio University for the 2018 Scholar Summit hosted by the Cutler Scholars Program in November of 2018.

The Undergraduate Scholars Program Administration Association, an organization dedicated to supporting higher-education professionals committed to providing scholarships and enrichment to high-promise undergraduate students, held its annual student conference, the Scholar Summit, to bring together students to share ideas, methods and learning experiences.

As the host for the 2018 Scholar Summit, Ohio University welcomed students from multiple merit scholarship programs, including University of Texas at Austin, University of North Carolina in Charlotte and University of Nebraska Omaha.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Scholar Voice, Scholar Impact.” The two-day event integrated a diverse array of workshops, panels, speeches and roundtable discussions focused on helping scholars maximize the opportunities offered by the merit scholarship programs to make a positive impact on their universities and communities.

An interactive discussion kickstarted the second day of activities, which informed students how to invest time and talent into initiatives they create. Students shared strategies for implementing such initiatives, managing priorities, communicating effectively, and coming to consensus in a group with many strong voices.

The events were designed to give students choices to attend a variety of student-led breakout panels throughout the day. The first, titled “Program Impact & Campus Community,” helped students develop strategic planning skills to organize activities that have campus-wide impacts and connect with their universities’ missions and goals. This panel encouraged students to participate in active discussions that provided scholars with useful knowledge and techniques when implementing such events. 

“I felt that the Program Impact & Campus Community panel provided concrete examples of student-led initiatives that were successfully implemented on home campuses, which helped me better visualize how I and other Cutler Scholars might translate our ideas for campus and program change into action at OHIO,” said Robe Cutler Scholar Aidan Crowl.

In the other panel, titled “Building Cross-Cohort Connections,” scholar panelists shared ideas for strengthening cross-cohort relationships in large scholars programs. This panel emphasized creating a culture of networking within programs to build relationships between scholars in different class years.

Dr. Margaux Cowden, the director of the Cutler Scholars Program, facilitated a session on the navigating the partisan divide in scholars programs. Scholars discussed case studies of politically-charged conflicts that have arisen in scholars programs, exploring the various perspectives in each case and deliberating about possible responses. The workshop also offered in-the-moment strategies for dealing with the stress, frustration and anxiety individuals may experience during a challenging dialogue.

“Scholars programs typically encourage students to be civically and ethically engaged. However, in a small community of scholars with strong points of view, differing convictions can give rise to serious conflict. We wanted to give students space to talk openly about such challenges and reflect on how they would like their university communities to respond to complex, politically-charged conflicts,” said Cowden.   

The keynote speaker, McClure & Fuller Cutler Scholar Matthew Denhart, B.A. ’10, returned to Ohio University to discuss the impact of merit scholarships. Denhart noted the role of scholars make an impact by pursuing knowledge and share it broadly to foster innovation. He claims that scholars have a responsibility to clarify their voices and overcome bias through the rigorous pursuit of truth in the marketplace of ideas. The advancement and innovation for information, truth and knowledge shape the foundation of merit scholarships.

“When we see major innovation, it often comes from ideas. That’s what innovation is: It’s new ways of doing things, or ways of doing things better,” said Denhart.

When sharing information, scholars have an important voice in a time where information is overly abundant. We are “barraged” by new information, said Denhart, which makes it difficult to know which information is important and which is irrelevant. He noted a negative impact of excessive information: It makes information and truth less illuminating. Scholars must have an informed voice in a time where noise is too prevalent.

“Ideas in the wrong hands can easily be taken the wrong way,” Dowdy Scholar Anisa Johnson said when talking about the way scholars exchange ideas. “Ideas shouldn’t be allowed to run rampant, but at the same time, when ideas run unchecked without ethics that’s the real problem. If you have ethics to it, then I think everything will turn out OK.”

Denhart serves as the executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, an organization that promotes the values and legacy of America’s 30th president.